Father Patrick Dowling, born in Kilkenny, quickly became a celebrity on August 4 when he came across a woman trapped in a car wreckage in northeastern Missouri. Praying with her and comforting her until she was rescued the media dubbed him the “mystery priest” and a “guardian angel.”
However, Dowling, who does not even own a TV, made it clear that he went to this young woman only because that is what a Catholic priest should do.
Speaking to the National Catholic Reporter Dowling said he hopes the hype surrounding his actions does not overshadow the message.
He said, “God loves us, he is here close to us, and when we're in trouble, he's there.”
Dowling believes it was God who gave him the chance to minister to 19-year-old Katie Lentz in her time of need.
The priest, from the Jefferson City diocese, said, “I try to be a priest, not a hero...And I did what a priest does. And every priest that I know, if they would pass by an accident, they would stop and do what I did.”
He told the Catholic Missourian, “The rescue workers are people of faith and prayer.
“They were all praying. I have no doubt that the Most High heard their prayers, and I was part of his answer ... but only one part."
Dowling anointed Lentz, gave her absolution and prayed with her while the rescue personnel worked. He stood silently by her praying while they moved her and the medical helicopter arrived.
He said, “I did the priest part, but gosh, how that rescue proceeded from that time on was amazing.
“They're all people of faith and love. I'm convinced that the Most High himself took care of them -- you know, blessed their work.”
When Dowling was sure that Lentz was okay he shook the hand of the deputy in charge of the scene, got into his car and drove away.
Days later the story of this “mystery priest” had gone viral. There were 70 photos taken of the crash scene but there were none of Dowling. Witnesses said the priest arrived at the scene as if from nowhere. Some even said that the priest had performed some sort of a miracle as Lentz seemed to rally when Dowling administered to her.
Dowling doesn’t even own a TV and didn’t realise he was famous until a fellow priest told him “The media is looking for you.”
The Kilkenny born priest contacted Lentz’s family and visited her at Blessing Hospital, Quincy’s intensive care unit. When the young woman saw Dowling she reached out her hand to shake his and cried.
Although Dowling denies that he performed any miracles he said he anointed Lentz with sacraments. He said, “The sacramental anointing ... it means hope.
“You can very easily fall into despair when you're in trouble. And it restores hope.”
Here’s an interview he did with local news khqatv7: